Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Qur'an Case

Object Name:
Qur'an case
second half 15th century
Attributed to Spain, possibly Granada
Leather; embroidered with gilt-silver wire
4 1/4 x 4 7/8 in. (10.8 x 12.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1904
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 457
This pouch, decorated with the Nasrid shield and motto, "There is no Victor but God," may have held a section of a small Qur'an. A French inscription on a piece of paper found inside the pouch at the time of purchase claimed that it belonged to the last sultan of Granada, Muhammad XII, known in Europe as Boabdil (r. 1486–92).
Of the few embroidered leather objects that have survived from the Nasrid period, this pouch is a rare and fine example. Square in format with a shield-shaped opening flap, it contains vegetal interlacing scrolls on the front as well as the Nasrid dynastic motto, all embroidered in gilt-silver wire. Similar foliate designs also surround the silver crescents that flank the inscription. On the back, there are interlacing star and curvilinear motifs and a repetition of the motto. Pouches such as this were likely made to hold segments of the Qur’an, possibly a juz’ (the Qur’an is typically divided into thirty parts, or juz’, one for each day of the month).[1] The small size and square shape are typical of Spanish Qur’ans from the twelfth century onward.
The embroidered motifs on this Qur’an case belong to the larger decorative repertoire associated with Nasrid Granada. Metal embroidery on leather appears on the surfaces of Nasrid armor coverings such as scabbards, shields, and other ceremonial objects. The scabbards of two Nasrid jineta swords bear embroidered interlacing ornamentation and decorative heraldic shields with epigraphy similar to that on the present Qur’an case.[2]
The Nasrid dynastic shield is found on objects as varied as silk textiles and architectural tilework. With their fanning terminals, vertical ascenders, and blocklike lettering, the boxlike Arabic inscriptions combine here with the dynastic motto and the use of gilt-metal wires to suggest a royal provenance. Such richly embroidered objects reflect the refinement and opulence of the Nasrid court. In fact, a piece of paper found inside the pouch at the time of purchase states that it once belonged to the last Islamic ruler of Granada, Muhammad XII (Boabdil, r. 1482–83, 1487–92).
Paoloa Chadwick in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. James 1988, p. 266
2. The scabbards are in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Cabinet des Medailles, Paris (no. 959). See Dodds 1992, pp. 284–86, no. 61.
Inscription: Inscription in Arabic in naskhi script, repeated on front and back:

لا غالب إلا الله
There is no Victor but God
? Abu `Abdallah Muhammad XII, last Sultan of Granada ; Marquis de Dos Aguas, Valencia, Spain; [ Duc de Dino, until 1904; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.

Untracht, Oppi. Metal Techniques for Craftsmen. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1968. p. 224, ill. p. 226.

James, David. Manuscripts of the Holy Qur'an from the Mamluk Era. London, 1988. p. 266.

Dodds, Jerrilynn D., Dr., Oleg Grabar, Antonio Vallejo Triano, Daniel S. Walker, Renata Holod, Cynthia Robinson, Juan Zozaya, Manuel Casamar Pérez, Christian Ewert, Guillermo Rossello Bordoy, Cristina Partearroyo, Sabiha Al Khemir, Dario Cabanelas Rodriguez, James Dickie, Jesus Bermudez Lopez, D. Fairchild Ruggles, and Juan Vernet. Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain, edited by Dr. Jerrilynn D. Dodds. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. p. 293, pl. 64, related.

Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). p. 9, ill. fig. 10 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 35, p. 66, ill. p. 66 (color).

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